IM hearing set on recreational pot sales

IRON MOUNTAIN — An ordinance to allow recreational marijuana facilities will be the subject of an Oct. 7 public hearing at Iron Mountain City Hall, setting the stage for retail sales to begin sometime next year.

The proposed ordinance is similar to one adopted by the city council in June to regulate medical marijuana facilities. It allows up to two licenses each for growing, processing and provisioning.

While many municipalities have opted out of recreational marijuana, Iron Mountain has so far determined it’s better to host and regulate the commerce than have it go elsewhere.

“All we’re changing is their ability to buy locally,” said council member Kyle Blomquist, noting retail marijuana will likely be available within a 45-minute drive or less if the city opts out. Adults age 21 and older in Michigan are free to carry up to 2.5 ounces marijuana and consume it in private.

The state has established a Bureau of Marijuana Regulation to oversee marijuana facilities and licensees — including growers, processors, transporters, provisioning centers and safety compliance facilities, all of which are permitted under the city’s ordinance. By state requirements, processing and growing must take place in an industrial-zoned area.

The state also allows for microbusinesses and consumption establishments, but Iron Mountain’s proposed ordinance denies licenses for those types of facilities. Zoning rules, meanwhile, would be the same as those adopted earlier for medical marijuana.

Applications for medical marijuana licenses in Iron Mountain are still being scored and successful applicants may be notified within a week or two, City Manager Jordan Stanchina said. The city has received seven applications for medical facilities, five of which request multiple licenses to cover sales, growing and processing.

Under the state’s current rules, only medical marijuana license holders can receive a recreational license, but they don’t have to be local.

City resident Virginia Feleppa urged the council to move slowly on recreational marijuana, saying the health risks are significant for pregnant women and teens. “Let’s use some good caution in proceeding with this,” she said.

After voicing misgivings on opting in before medical sales have begun, council member Pam Maule joined her colleagues in a unanimous vote to move the new ordinance forward. “I do want to make sure the council looks at everything,” she said.

Final council approval Oct. 7 would put the rules into effect 30 days later, several days after Michigan’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency starts accepting applications Nov. 1 for recreational business licenses. The city itself would have a 45-day window for applications but must still establish a scoring system.

The city’s rubric may be similar to what was used for medical marijuana, emphasizing the total investment and the applicant’s ability to operate, including having the proper state licensing. Incentives to discourage providers from abandoning the medical side also should be included, council member Bill Revord said.

By state rule, medical and recreational businesses can occupy the same facility, but products must be kept separate and are subject to testing and labeling.

The proposed non-refundable application fee for a recreational marijuana establishment in Iron Mountain is $1,500 per license. The proposed fee to maintain each license is $5,000 annually. Both rates are the same as for medical marijuana.

The city is willing to grant unlimited licenses for safety compliance and secure transporter facilities but so far has no takers.

The Oct. 7 hearing will be during the council’s next regular meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. The proposed ordinance will be posted on the city’s website at https://cityofironmountain.com/.


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